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Oxfam Report Illustrates The Stark Rich-Poor Divide

Oxfam Report Illustrates The Stark Rich-Poor Divide

"Of all the classes, the rich are the most noticed and the least studied."

-J.K. Galbraith

The rich-poor chasm is growing even wider, according to an Oxfam report, "Reward Work, Not Wealth," which was released ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The report is based on a survey of 70,000 people across 10 continents.

The Rich Get Richer

One of the poignant data points in the report is the proportion of incremental wealth created in 2017 that went into the pockets of the rich. The poorest half of the humanity — 3.7 billion people — did not add to their wealth, even as the richest 1 percent pocketed 82 percent of the total wealth created.

Drivers Of Disparity

Big business has excessive influence on government policymaking, and corporations scrimping on costs to boost their bottom line are among the factors that contribute to the income inequality, according to Oxfam.

"The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy, but a symptom of a failing economic system," said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International.

"The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors."

Unnerving Numbers

The wealth of billionaires has been growing an average of 13 percent annually since 2010. This compares to the mere 2-percent increase in the wages of ordinary workers.

The number of billionaires increased by one every two days between March 2016 and March 2017, according to Oxfam. 

What a CEO of one a top-five fashion brand earns in four days is more than the entire lifetime earnings of a person employed in the Bangladeshi garment industry, the organization said. 

A U.S. CEO's earnings in one day equal the annual earnings of an ordinary garment industry worker.

To lift the pay of 2.5 million garment industry workers in Vietnam to a living wage, about $2.2 billion would be needed a year — only one-third of the amount paid out as returns to wealthy shareholders by the top five garment companies in 2016, Oxfam said. 

See also: Another New ETF For Socially Responsible Investors

Women Subjected To Subpar Working Conditions

Despite all progress made by women in the corporate world, women were found wanting in the workplace in the Oxfam report. 

Female workers at Vietnamese government factories work without a break for months at a time, staying away from home and unable to see their children for months on end, the report said. 

Oxfam noted the deplorable conditions of women working in the poultry industry in the U.S., the world's largest economy and a developed country. Women in the industry are forced to work wearing "nappies" so they don't take toilet breaks, the organization said. 

Generally, women earn far less than male counterparts working in a similar job — and work in the least secure forms of employment. 

Even in the billionaire subset, nine out of 10 members are men.

About 32 of the Fortune 500 companies of the U.S. had women as CEOs in 2017, marking a record, but representing only 6.4 percent of the total. This number is expected to drop to 26 in 2018, as some of them have left or are set to relinquish their positions soon, CNN said, quoting Catalyst, a group researching women and work.

The Way Out

How can workplace inequality be leveled? Oxfam suggests a greater role for government, so economies work for everyone and not just the fortunate few.

The charity calls on governments to ensure that workers receive at least living wages; on the flipside, returns to shareholders and hefty CEO pay could be trimmed, Oxfam said.

In order to mobilize funds for public services such as health care and education, Oxfam called on governments to clamp down on tax enforcement among the wealthy. The firm estimates a 1.5-percent global tax on billionaires could generate enough money to meet the expenses of providing education to all children.

Oxfam also recommended closing the gender pay gap and protecting the rights of women in the workplace.

Related Link:

Middle Class Income Is At Record Highs, But The Economy Still Has Work To Do

Posted-In: Davos Oxfam Winnie Byanyima World Economic ForumEducation Media Best of Benzinga


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